Episode 5.17: “Opening Night”

(Spoilers lurk below.)

In many ways, this episode represents the end of Glee‘s journey, insofar as Glee is a show about Rachel Berry. She began the series as a wannabe star who posted videos of herself singing on MySpace, to universal scorn. Now, she’s starring in a Broadway show on opening night, playing her dream role. People go go their whole lives without accomplishing as much as Rachel has managed to accomplish barely a year out of high school.

Is it too soon? Was it too easy? Characters are supposed to earn their happy endings, and, while Rachel has paid a lot of dues over the years, it’s hard to argue that she’s earned the position of “Broadway star.” It wasn’t all that long ago that her method of dealing with competition was to send them to a crackhouse.

Early on in this episode, Rachel forces herself to deal with all the negative press that the previews have generated, finding every bad thing said about her in print or on the Internet and drowning herself in it, everything from professional criticism to YouTube comments. This leads to all her friends (including visiting Tina) trying to cheer her up and build up her confidence, and ends with a lovely scene between Rachel and Santana, whose line “You suck at so many things, but not this” sounds perfect coming from her. This plotline works as far as it goes, but what’s annoying about it is that it sets Rachel up as a victim without having to establish a villain, and she gets to be built up without actually doing anything wrong. The show essentially throws a pity party for Rachel and we’re all invited. It’s a lazy way to give a character confidence.

One could also argue that Rachel’s confidence is one of her defining characteristics and that it seems wrong for her to suddenly fear that she actually sucks. “Choke” suggests that maybe she had reason to worry, but even there she never doubted to talent. I tend to be more forgiving of the character change here what with the major move to Broadway, but they didn’t sell it all that well, and it probably should have come up at least a few episodes ago.

Santana’s speech almost makes this plotline worth it, and Lea Michele sells the whole thing for all its worth. I also have to admit to enjoying the whole thing, from beginning to end, since I’m a sucker and all. But, objectively, it rings false because of how it’s structured.

Worse than Rachel’s faux breakdown was the fact that she ended up getting rave reviews. I kept waiting for some note about her greenness, some criticism of her unpolished performance, a suggestion that a veteran actress might have done better. But no, apparently she’s a superstar right out of the box. Again, I admit to enjoying this. Rachel has worked her ass off her entire life to get to this point, but… if she’s achieved her dream at age 19, where does she go from here? Her story can’t be done, there’s another season and some change of this show left to go.

Actually more enjoyable than the beginning or end of this story was the middle: the performance itself and the celebration. I particularly loved Rachel being recognized at the club. It was also nice seeing everyone having fun together, much more fun than seeing them all trying to cheer Rachel up.

I guess that brings us to… *sigh*… the half of the episode with Sue in it. What the hell were they thinking here? Sue insults New York City on TV, her Ohioan viewers care for some reason, so she goes to NYC to prove her point and instead finds love… What? No seriously, what. This feels like something they came up with just to work Sue into the episode somehow, as if she had any reason to be there. It was somewhat satisfying seeing Rachel stand up to her, but it’s not something that we’ve never seen before. Mario was a complete waste of space, an almost totally generic character. Their relationship was simply boring and pointless. The whole subplot dragged the episode down. Way down. I don’t know what even made them think that this belonged here.

Also appearing in this episode: Will. Despite the implication in “New Directions” that he was being let go from the school, apparently he wasn’t. He’s still there, and he travels to NYC to be at Rachel’s opening night (with Sue, because… who cares), only to immediately travel back to Lima when Emma goes into labor. That’s pretty much his whole story. His scene with Rachel was quite nice, but otherwise they didn’t give him much to do.

Overall, this episode was all over the map. There was a lot to like, but there were just as many tragic missteps and moments that made me wonder what the hell they were thinking.

Musically, this episode was on much more solid ground. “Lovefool” was an absolute blast, and, aside from being extremely trippy, was a nice way of selling Rachel’s anxiety: as a residual of her struggles back in high school. “NYC” was a great performance, and I loved the stage-style dream sequence… but it had no place in the episode. It brought the plot to a grinding halt. “I’m the Greatest Star” was wonderful: it was good to see Rachel owning the stage. Despite how questionable it was, from a story perspective, to give Rachel so much success so fast, this was the highlight of the episode. “Who Are You Now,” on the other hand, was on track to be the highlight of the episode until it shoehorned Sue into the number. I mean… really? We’re going to invite comparisons between Rachel’s relationship with Finn and Sue’s one-episode relationship with Generic New Yorker #188? That’s unforgivable. It utterly destroys my ability to enjoy what is objectively a very good number. “Pumpin’ Blood” was a ton of fun, just pure joy.

Other thoughts:

Why was Shakespeare on drums?

Rachel’s producer seems awfully good at saying exactly the wrong thing to his star.

Apparently Sue’s marriage to herself didn’t work out and she ended up divorcing herself. … Thanks for reminding me of that mess.

The running gag about Tina’s relationships all being with gay men was kinda tiresome, but I did find it kinda funny that she failed to realize the DJ at a gay dance club was gay.

The newsstand guy’s response to a bunch of teens showing up at dawn to buy a copy of the New York Times: “They’re gonna email you the New York Times in three minutes.”

Will’s son’s name: Daniel Finn Schuester.

In case you forgot (because I did): Sue has a daughter.


2 thoughts on “Episode 5.17: “Opening Night”

  1. I never got the implication that Will was being fired or let go from McKinley. He was never being forced to leave, but Sue did offer him a chance to do what he loves at another school. However, it wasn’t the only option on the table, it was just a matter of doing what you love verses being where you love.

    • I got the implication from Sue’s line in “New Directions”: “You were a horrible history teacher, and you were a worse Spanish teacher.” Seems like if he was still working there she would have said “You are a horrible history teacher.” That coupled with her getting him an interview somewhere else suggested to me that he was fired. But you’re right, they never outright said it.

      I think it probably should have been clearer.

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